Burning the Notebooks

Thursday, August 1, 2019 at 23:43 (UTC+0530)

"Take me to the river.  Drop me in the water." – Talking Heads, "Take Me To The River", on the album "More Songs About Buildings And Food", 1978

Now that forty years of notebooks were safely archived in digital form, and backed up in several places, what to do with the ratty paper originals?  One tires of lugging them from one storage place to another.  They are rarely cracked open for a nostalgic review.  It was time they disappeared.

Today at 8:42 a.m. the (unseen) Moon passed by the Sun to start the next lunation.  I struck a match.  I held it under a few pages of an old journal and, when the flame caught hold, I dropped them into a large clay pot I'd bought from an old lady in Peradeniya the day before.  As those pages quickly burned I tore out more pages, added them to the blaze, and kept going.  For three hours I tore and wadded and tossed, never needing to strike another match, the black ashes getting deeper and deeper.

By noon it was all done and the pot of ashes was too hot to carry so I lay down for a nap.  Soon a cloud passed over and sprinkled rain.  By two I was ready to call Sampath to pick me up and take me to the Monkey Bridge over the Mahaweli Ganga.  A university guard asked what I was doing and I said I wanted to dump these ashes into the river.  He gave the sideways nod that means, sure, why not?

A passerby used my camera to catch me pouring out the clay pot.  You can see the gorgeous sunlit green jungle but not the lazy brown waters far below.  The cloud of ash fell and twisted in little tornadoes, spread toward the far bank, expanded and lifted, and danced in the sun as it gradually joined the largest river in Sri Lanka.